Wednesday, 15 February 2017

clearing up

One of the reasons why things always take longer than I think they're going to is because of my tendency to underestimate how long the clearing up is going to take.  Take the case of the hedge along the meadow.  I did my best cutting the front face with loppers and the bow saw a couple of years ago when the Systems Administrator had a frozen shoulder and was off hedging duties, but I had to leave the strongest upright branches along the centre line.  Since then and boosted by last year's wet spring the hedge has grown massively, to the point where it was not so much a hedge as a line of trees, and was beginning to grow into the telephone line.  The SA now restored to fitness announced last month that he was going to cut it, and has been taking anything up to fifteen feet out of the top with the chain saw and pole saw.  I promised to clear the trimmings so that the SA would have time to keep on cutting before the buds broke and the birds started nesting, while finding a series of other jobs to do that felt more urgent and more like proper gardening.  By Monday the piles of debris had got to the point where the SA announced it was becoming impossible to move, so while the SA was out for the day I busied myself dragging cut branches out of the meadow.

I shredded as much as I could because I need the chippings as a weed suppressing mulch round the compost bins, and stacked the fatter branches outside the SA's workshop to be cut up for firewood. I hadn't nearly finished by the time it was time to stop and get ready for my woodland talk, but I hoped I'd made enough of a dent in the great pile of debris for the SA to be happy.  It is going to take me several more full days to process all the hedge cuttings as the SA is still hard at work and there is an immense quantity of material to come out.  It needs doing, and yet dragging branches back to the shed and sawing them up and feeding the smaller ones through the shredder does not feel like proper gardening, not like pruning the roses and the buddleia and cutting down the herbaceous stems in the back garden and sowing the tomato seeds, and all the nice jobs fiddling around with plants that I should like to be getting on with.

Yesterday I thought I'd have an afternoon's gardening after my morning meeting, but ended up taking the duvet to the cleaners.  Never mind, there was always today.  I have been asking the SA to take the pole saw to some branches that are growing out over the corner of the ditch bed in the back garden to make it less preposterously shady so that I can plant it up with ferns and cyclamen. I have even got some cyclamen, which have been sitting in their box for days in the downstairs loo waiting for me to have time to plant them.  The SA obligingly cut the branches, but that left me with the best part of another day's work carting the pieces away.

In the same shady corner a long time ago I laid woven landscape fabric along the line of the rabbit fence.  At the time I had no plan to cultivate the area and wanted to suppress weeds.  Since then a couple of trees have started to mature and the shrubs that stood in front of the landscape fabric have been shaded out, leaving a fair sized area of deep shade with nothing much growing in it.  It seemed a waste, particularly as it is now overlooked by the SA's deck for listening to Test Match Special while sitting out of the wind.  But before I could plant ferns, cyclamen or anything else I had to remove the landscape fabric, by now buried to a depth of approximately four inches.  When it was new I probably covered it with chipped bark to hide it, which has since rotted down, but most of the four inches of loose, friable soil must be the effect of two decades' worth of fallen leaves and twigs.  It was surprisingly heavy, and made the task of lifting the fabric awfully laborious.  I ended up cutting it away in small sections, scrabbling the soil aside and back on to the area I'd just freed, while extracting the odd surface tree root.  The ground under the fabric was as hard as you'd expect after having no leaf fall of any kind of compost added to it for the past twenty years.

I had not nearly finished lifting the fabric when it began to rain, and tomorrow at some point I have to go and collect the duvet.  Meanwhile the cyclamen bulbs are still in their box and the tomato seeds in their packets.  It just takes so amazingly long to get to the point of doing any actual proper gardening.

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